PORT ORANGE, Fla. (Jan. 27, 2014) — Sixteen-year-old Michael Lira is excited about his upcoming year — behind the wheel of a race car.
The stock car racer plans to compete in 14 races in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards with Kimmel Racing.
Michael Lira Racing said Mr. Lira was recently granted special permission to participate when the ARCA Racing Series held a weekend of testing sessions at Daytona International Speedway.
"I've grown up watching my dad run sports cars there, and getting to experience it for myself was an incredible opportunity," Mr. Lira said.
"I learned so much in just one weekend there, and it has definitely made me a more confident driver."
He is looking to "get out the vote" as he seeks a spot on "Team Champion" in Champion Spark Plugs' "Search for a Champion" contest.
Internet voting is open at the contest website through Feb. 2.
"Sponsorship is such an important part of racing," Mr. Lira said. "The Champion 'Search for a Champion' program will award 15 drivers with funding for their 2014 seasons. Participating in the contest is a lot of fun and I am hoping we can drum up enough support to help us with the funding we need to be successful."
Mr. Lira will drive the No. 69 Ford Fusion for Kimmel Racing for the 2014 season, Michael Lira Racing said, with Gary Yeomans Ford as the car's primary sponsor, in addition to Costa and AttorneyatLaw.com. The team is headed by ARCA crew chief Bill Kimmel, who won eight consecutive championships in the ARCA Racing Series from 2000–2007 as the crew chief for his brother Frank.
"I couldn't ask for a better mentor than Bill," Mr. Lira said.
"He's had so much success in his career, and I'm eager to learn as much as I can. Kimmel Racing is such an established and successful team in ARCA. It is a championship-caliber organization, as they have proven in the past, and I'm excited to do my part in continuing that tradition.
"I want to improve as a driver, and I want to win. There's no other team that I would rather be a part of."
Mr. Lira began his ARCA Racing Series career in 2013, running four races in association with Roush Fenway Racing and Kimmel Racing, according to Michael Lira Racing. ARCA rules dictate that, because he is only 16, he is not eligible to race at tracks that measure more than one mile in length. Once he turns 17, Mr. Lira will be authorized to run the intermediate tracks as well, which include tracks up to 1.5 miles long.
"While Michael will not be able to compete on the superspeedways for a few more years, the test sessions at Daytona were an important learning process for him," Bill Kimmel said.
"We're encouraged by what we've seen from Michael so far. He's still very young, but he's had a lot of success early on, and we're confident that will continue in the upcoming season. We're very happy to have him as a part of Kimmel Racing."
Michael Lira's 2014 ARCA Racing Series schedule includes the following races:
- March 22: ARCA Mobile 200 at Mobile International Speedway in Irvington, Ala.
- April 27: ARCA 200 at Salem Speedway in Salem, Ind.
- c May 18: Toledo ARCA 200 at Toledo Speedway in Toledo, Ohio
- June 1: New Jersey Motorsports Park 150 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J.
- June 21: Elko ARCA 250 at Elko Speedway in Elko, Minn.
- July 6: Winchester ARCA 200 at Winchester Speedway in Winchester, Ind.
- July 25: ARCA 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Wheatland, Mo.
- Aug. 1: ModSpace 125 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.
- Aug. 9: Berlin ARCA 200 at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich.
- Aug. 17: Allen Crowe Memorial 100 at Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill.
- Aug. 24: Madison ARCA 200 at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wis.
- Sept. 1: Southern Illinois 100 at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in DuQuoin, Ill.
- Sept. 13: ARCA Fall Classic at Salem Speedway in Salem, Ind.
- Sept. 19: ZLOOP 150 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky.
Along with his busy racing schedule, Michael Lira Racing said Mr. Lira is with continuing his studies in the International Baccalaureate Program at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange and defending his No. 1 state ranking in trombone competition.